May 20th, 2013 by Editor
On the Monday 20 May 2013 the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights (EOHR) began its first training workshop for legal professionals about crimes of torture. The workshop aims to train a group of lawyers, legal professionals and researchers in how to deal with crimes of torture in order to make a positive difference. The workshop is scheduled over two days; namely, Monday 20 and Tuesday and 21 May 2013.
The head of EOHR, Mr. Hafez Abu Seda, inaugurated the workshop and emphasized that torture was one of the main reasons for the outbreak of the 25 January Revolution. Although it became more advantageous to condemn this phenomenon after the revolution, torture remains a clear challenge to the rule of law.
Mr Abu Seda confirmed EOHR started working on the training workshop for legal experts in order to combat torture in Egypt, which aims at providing a group of legal experts in different Egyptian governorates on observation and documentation of crimes of torture. The training provides them also with an overview on international law, international and regional mechanisms dealing with torture, and the process whereby a victim or civil society organisation can submit a complaint on a specific torture incident in accordance with the mechanisms of the United Nations.
The first trainer, Mr Ahmad Abd el-Hafez, attorney at law, and vice-president of EOHR, tackled the issue of torture within Egyptian legislation. He pointed out that the Egyptian constitution states in Article no. 31 that dignity is a basic right for each person; the society and the state guarantee, respect and protect that right, so a specific person cannot be insulted or humiliated. The Egyptian penal code and the criminal procedural code also criminalised torture and banned confessions under torture. Article no. 41 of the Egyptian criminal procedural code states that a specific person cannot be arrested or detained without a state order in accordance with Egyptian laws; while detained he or she should not be subjected to physical or verbal abuse.
Mr Ahmad Abd el-Hafez added that the newly drafted Egyptian constitution is against torture and Egypt has also signed and ratified the international covenant for civil and political rights; however, Egyptians have not witnessed legislative progress. Mr Ahmad Abd el-Hafez listed a number of witnessed types of torture; for instance, questioning an accused person for long hours, subjecting accused persons under very bright lights, and using audio-visual effects (for example, playing recorded materials of voices made by people under torture or of family members begging them to confess, and insulting or chaining an accused person or covering his or her eyes. The types of torture also include threats of torture or killing in connection with the emergency law. According to Article no. 282 banning people from access to suitable clothes and food and detention in harmful places do not fall under the definition of torture.
Mr Tarek Zaghloun, the executive director of EOHR, covered the second topic in his lecture “How to observe and document torture incidents”. He stated that this process is more than important than ordinary complaints, and relates to observing and investigating the place and the motives of alleged torture in order to ensure the credibility of the complainer. This is the main key to open the door for the wider investigation on the incident. He affirmed that the interviewer should be aware of the type of questions given to the victim whilst investigating a crime of torture. He also stressed the importance of every tiny detail and piece of evidence that can be gathered on site since the interviewer would not be given a second chance to gather this kind of information later on. The interviewer should also be equipped with the acquired awareness of the legal evidence in an incident of torture. He added that those who document incidents relating to such crimes always seek proof of the crime’s occurrence, including medical evaluation that can affect the drafting of the legal report, and preparing a complete record accurately and clearly detailing the related crimes. The final report can be depended upon to provide the victim with the required legal assistance.
Dr Ghada Shahbandar talked about the international mechanisms for combatting torture. She pointed out that torture is such an ugly crime because of the resulting pains that the victim continues to live with. She added that these results affect international peace. The international law, in addition to banning torture, aims to create new effective international mechanisms to criminalise the commission of these types of crimes (such as the creation of an index monitoring incidences of torture worldwide and providing the international society information on the rate of torture in specific countries). These procedures are aimed to prevent these kinds of practises in accordance with international law. The second example discussed was the creation of new international rules banning perpetrators of torture from impunity. Dr Ghada added that the international mechanisms were very effective in the role of protection of victims and monitoring incidents of torture. She mentioned that the Human Rights Committee of the Economic and Social Council and the Committee Against Torture fulfil the same role.
Dr Ghada also talked about the international principles for combatting torture and impunity, pointing out that the international community started taking effective measures against serious human rights abuses made by the states. Criminals are still being awarded impunity and are being set free because of different legislation, although those perpetrators have committed serious crimes against humanity. The issue has been addressed clearly within the constitution of Nurnberg Tribunal; it was clearly addressed again within Article no. 5 of the constitution of the International Criminal Court in Yugoslavia. This provided grounds for punishing those who are responsible of a number of serious crimes, including assassination, slavery, displacement, detention, torture, rape and oppression on racial, political or religious grounds, in addition to many other types of crimes against humanity. Article no. 3 of the constitution of the International Criminal Court in Rwanda listed the acts that are considered crimes against humanity.
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